bad romance tropes

7 Bad Romance Tropes That Just Don’t Work Anymore

Romance novels are one of the big pleasures of my life. Not guilty pleasures — because I don’t feel guilty about something that makes me happy — but truly luxurious pleasures. There’s nothing quite like the feeling when you open a romance novel and realize that you will love it. Or when they hold hands and you kick your legs and squeal. Or when they finally, finally kiss. 

But romance as a genre is full of tropes. Some of them are good — tropes are tropes for a reason (and the reason is, we love them). Some of them are universally hated (see also: miscommunication, surprise pregnancy, love triangles, insta love). While it may shock you to know that I don’t mind miscommunication — I know, what kind of monster am I? — there are some tropes that I see all the time and hate with a burning passion. 

1. Extremely Sheltered/Innocent MC Marries the First Person to Show Them Kindness

Nothing makes me angrier than this trope. And I’ve read so many books that have it. Look, it’s okay to write a very sheltered character, but it is absolutely not okay to have them marry the first person that’s nice to them within 300 pages. 

Sheltered can take many forms. Maybe the main character never had a boyfriend/girlfriend. Maybe they were kept away from the world by caring/horrible parents. Maybe they have mental health issues which result in all of the above. 

They could just be young or naturally introverted or for some reason unfamiliar with regular life. They’re usually a virgin or at least never had an orgasm/good sexual experience. And then the other MC (the love interest) swoops in and changes all of that. 

And look, I’m fine with that. Even though sometimes it feels icky because the more experienced character can easily manipulate (and often does) the more innocent main character. 

But it is absolutely not okay to have them marry that person. They have no experience, nothing to compare their current situation to. What they need, instead, is to live a normal life for a while. 

2. Girl-on-Girl Hate or Slut Shaming

I mean, I’m pretty sure no one likes this. It’s very common in romance novels when the author wants to make their main girls look special or in some way better for the hero than the other women, but it’s an old trope and one that needs to die. 

3. Lack of Consent

You’d think this isn’t a thing in books anymore, but you’d be surprised. It actually turned into something more sinister — the characters give consent, sure, but they are internally uncomfortable or were extremely reluctant before being convinced by their love interest. It makes for incredibly icky scenes, not to mention how harmful it is. 

And look, I am not talking about dark romances where this is pretty normal. That’s completely fine, and if it comes with a fair content warning, even better. People expect that. And the readers are more mature. 

But you also often see this in books that are marketed as YA or regular romance novels. And it should not be in there. 

The worst of it is when it’s played out as one character teaching the other character to “live”, “enjoy their life”, “be more carefree” and somehow that involves them being sexual in ways that make the other character uncomfortable. 

4. When Friends in Friends to Lovers Marry Immediately

Friends to Lovers is probably one of the most beloved tropes in romance, and it’s amazing when done well. However, there’s something that happens often in these books, and that’s our main two characters marrying each other after like two days/weeks/months of dating. 

Look, I get the sentiment — they were best friends so why wouldn’t it work out? But hear me out: being friends and being in a relationship is not the same. It’s a completely different dynamic and one that has to be explored before you can jump into marriage. 

Lovers should be friends, but no one guarantees that two best friends will be good for each other in a relationship. And I’m completely fine if they move in together, or something equal to that. We can see them married in a “two years later” epilogue. But not after two months of proper dating (or, more egregious, a few days). 

5. When Enemies Aren’t Really Enemies

Now, enemies to lovers is my personal favorite and I will keep reading this trope until I keel over and die. But, only when it’s done well. 

It comes in many shades: work rivals to lovers, academic rivals to lovers, true enemies to lovers (as in, they want to kill each other, are on opposite sides of a war), frenemies to lovers, etc. 

And I don’t mind when one of the enemies is in love with the other from the beginning (that works — not sure why, but it does). 

But I do mind when the reasons for them being enemies are flimsy. And I especially mind when they get over them too quickly. 

6. Big, Gigantic Guy, Tiny Girl

I get why this might appeal to someone, and if it does, please ignore me. I’m just a tall girl who is not in any way, shape or form tiny and does not like extremely tall guys. Sue me. 

And if it was just the size difference, I wouldn’t care that much. 

But this trope often comes with infantilization of the tiny (often female) character, and the big love interest (often male) is so focused on this that it becomes creepy. Especially so when the love interest keeps mentioning how young and child-like the other character looks. 

7. When It’s All About Sex

Romance is called romance for a reason: it should revolve around a love story between two (or more) people. The main aspect should be the emotional one. But more and more often, romance novels focus solely on the physical element (namely, physical appearance and sex). 

Look, this is perfectly fine in erotic novels or even dark romances. But please, for the love of books, make the characters love each other based on something other than sex. 

Oh, this goes hand in hand with another one of my most hated tropes: sex-obsessed MCs. Like, I get it, but also, please stop. It’s so icky when the MCs keep thinking about having sex with each other, or even worse when they keep doing it in the most inappropriate places (looking at you, Heartless, for the child’s birthday party kitchen sex scene). 

Bottom Line

This list isn’t meant to yuck on anyone’s yam. Tastes are a wildly personal thing. But this is my (probably incomplete) collection of tropes I hate, inspired by my recent read of Heartless and Icebreaker (among others). 

Please feel free to let me know if I’m wrong, or if you agree, or if you just want to add your most hated tropes to the list.

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